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Pattini Ceremonies Myths Shrines Community Pattini Community Pattini 2 Family Pattini

A Pattini ceremony - Pattini Devol Tovil (GamMadua Ceremony)

This ceremony is usually performed as a result of a pledge to the Deity Pattini e.g. when someone, or in this case a village, have been released from a great sickness or misfortune - a thanksgiving to the Deities. This was the thirtieth year that this small village  near Unawatuna, had held this annual ceremony. The Tovil dancers danced the whole of the night. The monks at the local Temple were fed and later also the villagers. This was the dana part of the ceremony.

Earlier the necessary structures had been erected for the ceremony by the Tovil Dancers, Assistants and with help from the men of the village community. The Performance Area had been sanctified as Deities cannot be invited to attend a profane area. This consecration takes place when the toran for Pattini has been constructed. Chairs typically represent the other shrines to be erected. (For full details of this consecration ceremony and the relevant texts see Obeysekere pages 73-106. I did not observe this part of the ceremony).

When we arrived at about 8.00pm, the village men were busily cooking the dana meal in the special cooking place at the Temple. These ritual cooling foods were to be eaten at the conclusion of  the ceremony - most important is  the rice cooked in coconut milk eaten by all those present and even collected for those unable to attend. These foods are believed to “cool” the imbalances of the humours. (Obeysekere p.43)

Entrance to the village from the  main road. The notice is announcing the Ceremony.

All the way along the side road lights lined the route leading to the Temple where the Ceremony was being held.

Illuminated Village Temple. There was even a stall set up selling the usual fair ground plastic toys. This was the 30th year this annual Devol- Madua Tovil ceremony had been held. Apparently 30 years ago there was a great trouble in the village. The community believed they had then been saved by the intervention of Pattini and so had made the vow on their release. Ever since, to ward off a  return of this trouble, they have held the ceremony.

In the Temple cooking area the men were busily occupied cooking the special food to be given out the next day to all the Villagers. Only men prepare this food. It is a special coconut milk rice mixed with mung beans, cashew nuts, banana and various herbs and spices - the same as is cooked on special occasions e.g. when a new fishing boat is launched or when the Temple monks are “being fed”.

Using a coconut machine to prepare grated coconut to make coconut milk - on a commercial scale!

The cooking area. There were men stirring about five of these enormous cooking pots in which the rice was being cooked over wood fires.

Earlier in the day the Temple monks had been “cooked for” and served. This special serving of food to the Monks  had opened the proceedings of the Ceremony.

View of the Pattini Toran - torana malligava in the centre, and the sacred “hut” to the left. Here has been carefully placed Pattini’s sacred objects and the offering basket with her offerings. Only the officiating  Tovil dancer can handle these. To the left of the larger structure was a long pole decorated with banana leaf loops. This was later “planted”. This pole is called the Festival Bough.


The Performance Area before the start of the ceremony. To the left of the Pattini Toran was  the “hut” made of  banana and coconut constructed by the Tovil Dancers  with the help of Assistants. On the chair is an offering basket. To the right was a smaller specially made structure. In the middle is the Performance Area which had been consecrated and was roped off. This is the sacred area into which the Deities including Pattini are invited to attend the Ceremony which is not only in their honour but also for their entertainment.

Lord Buddha is depicted in the top row. Below him in the middle two rows are images of Deities including Pattini,Devol-deviyo, Vishnu and Kataragama. N.B. Madua Bandara - the village deity - In the centre of the bottom row

The Temple opposite which has been  illuminated for the Ceremony

Topping up the oil lamps

One of the Tovil dancer drummers  led  as the puja offerings were carried by a community leader. Puja was  presented by the Head Tovil dancer at the main shrine in the Temple. Then the procession returned to the Performance Area. White cloths cover the heads of those in contact with the puja offerings

Then the main officiant offered Puja at the Pattini Shrine after offering Puja at  the Buddhist temple

“Restrained” dancing, the dancers represent the servants of Pattini and they are dancing for her entertainment

The specially erected Pattini Shrine had a roof of coconut thatch providing the cover. The shrine consisted of pictures in four rows. On the top layer were images of Buddha. The next layer depicted pictures of the Sri Padha deity - Saman and the other Guardian Deities. Pattini was in the layer below and then at the base was the village Deity - Madua Bandara. To the left of this structure was the “hut” with Shrines for other deities, in front of which was a long pole lying on the ground. This pole was adorned with looped banana or coconut leaf decorations. This was the “Festival Bough”. To the right was a smaller structure for other  Deities. The performance area was between and in front of these structures. This area was roped off as it was the consecrated area.

The ceremony commenced with the Head Tovil Dancer,  who was the main officiant, taking a conch shell from the Pattini Toran and blowing it three times. He then replaced the shell  carefully in the Toran. Blowing the conch shell denotes an auspicious ceremony connected with the Deities is to take place. Then the coconut oil lights were lit  in front of the different shrines- this is the invitation to the Deities to attend the ceremony, resting comfortably on their “couches” (shrines), and be entertained by the dances, praises and mimes and receive their offerings.

Next Puja was offered at the Temple opposite and then at the main Toran Shrine of Pattini which had been erected on ground opposite the Temple. The Puja was first led around the sacred Bodhi tree at the Temple by one of the three drummers from the Tovil dancers and the Puja was offered by the main officiant. It was carried by one of the community leaders whose head and mouth were covered by a white cloth to prevent pollution. Another community representative held a golden umbrella over the puja. When they re-entered the Performance Area, the Drummer led them around the side and they entered to the right of the toran.

In front of the toran after he had presented the puja to the Shrines, the main officiant first knelt and then fully prostrated himself in front of the toran. Then the community leaders retired to the side of the toran and the officiant and leader removed their head coverings.

Following the Puja the main officiant led the Buddhist chant reciting the Five precepts for which all the audience stood respectfully and participated and then the main ceremony of the evening commenced at about 9 pm. (N.B. For this he had removed his head cloth as whilst offering prayers to Buddha, Buddhists  remove head coverings.)

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Gam Madua Part 1 Community Gam Madua near Unawatuna


Invitation to the Deities

This part of the ceremony is to formally invite the Deities to attend.  The main officiant had again donned his head covering to show respect to the Deities. He commenced by standing in front of the toran and ringing a tinkling bell. This is to initiate the invitation to the Deities.

Then the other Tovil dancers danced in front of the toran.They were dressed in white clothes with red sashes and two of them had head coverings.  One of them held bunches of coconut flowers in each hand. The main officiant sang from the texts about what was happening and the drummer beat the rhythm of the dance. The dancing was fairly restrained at first then gradually became faster when a fifth dancer joined, with twirling and acrobatics, sometimes one or two dancers would perform energetically together whilst the others rested. This dance lasted about 15 minutes,

Then they all faced towards the toran and the main officiant took a conch shell from the Pattini Toran and blew it three times. He then replaced the shell  carefully in the Toran. Blowing the conch shell denotes an auspicious ceremony connected with the Deities is to taking place. The the coconut oil lights had already been lit  in front of the different shrines. The Deities had now been formally and respectfully invited to attend the ceremony, whilst resting comfortably on their “couches” (shrines), and be entertained by the dances, praises and mimes and receive their offerings.

 One of the dancers held a large lighted torch which was passed around in turn to the other dancers. Another sang from the texts about what they were doing.

 One of the dancers was then given a large lighted torch by an Assistant who held two coal pans of dummala. This lighted torch was to be placed at the top of the Festival Bough before it was “planted”.

The drumming started again as did the singing. The dancer with the torch danced steadily with it in a swaying movement. The other dancers accompanied him in the dance. The Assistant moved from the lighted torch to the nearby spot to the left where the Festival Bough was laid.

This is the beginning of the dances for the Festival Bough.